Beta day

Last night, I went on a rant to Chris and my friend.

“My body is supposed to be a baby making machine!” I yelled. “The female body was designed to be a baby making machine! Why do you think you get a period every month? Every single month, the female body releases an egg from one of its ovaries, and the egg is just flying out there, asking, ‘heyyyyy, sperm, where you at? Are you even there? Come save me! Be with me! Fertilize me!'”

The released egg is like a damsel in distress running or floating every single month out of one of your ovaries, wondering where the heck its prince charming is to come fertilize and save it. And then, when she is disappointed to find out that no prince charming/sperm is waiting for her, she then dissolves into nothing. (And if we had to get really scientific and specific about this, sometimes there ARE sperm / prince charmings waiting for it, but unfortunately they are too ugly (poor morphology) or too slow (poor motility) to even get considered by the egg or to penetrate the egg for fertilization). Your uterine lining is disappointed at this, with no embryo to attach to it, and thus it sheds each month, resulting in your monthly period, or a “visit from aunt flow.” That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what stage of life you are currently on.

I woke up this morning with a noticeable stiffness in my left wrist. I had to shake it out and stretch it a few times before it went away. While I do have cubital tunnel syndrome related problems, that affects the elbows and my fingers. I’ve never had any wrist problems. But I took that as a sign that perhaps, yes, I actually am pregnant (carpal-tunnel can be a temporary symptom of pregnancy. Isn’t that insane??). And I was going to find out shortly when I went in for my beta-HCG test. That’s why today is called Beta Day for women hoping to get pregnant.

My friend accompanied me to my 8:30am appointment to get my blood drawn. The earlier you go, the less you have to wait, so I was in and out of there in less than five minutes literally, which wasn’t enough time for my friend to get through her first news article of the day. We then went to have lunch at a popular spot along Central Park South and discussed life and a potential pregnancy over eggs, bacon, and popovers.

Just before noon, the nurse from the clinic called. I immediately jumped up to take the call into my bedroom. With my friend holding her ear close to the closed bedroom door, the nurse said, “So, I am calling with good news. You’re pregnant!”

I was in shock. I’ve been waiting for this moment for nearly two years now. My eyes immediately welled up and I blurted out, “OHMIGOD, ARE YOU FOR REAL?” She congratulated me and explained some of the levels that we’re looking for and will need to monitor, explained next steps and other things I need to watch out for, and said she’d send over instructions to me through the portal.

My friend embraced me and we cried together, still in shock at the good news, both terrified and excited at the same time. Chris came in and I told him. And him being him, he was even keeled and “smiled on the inside,” trying to temper my excitement since we had no idea if all of this would be taken away from us tomorrow.

I’m not throwing an implantation or embryo party. I’m not calling everyone I know and their mother to let them know I am pregnant. But this has been a long, miserable journey with very few highs. And with this one high after a long time of frustrations and disappointing news and periods, I finally feel like there actually may be hope for us finally growing our family now. I just need to take it one day at a time.

Twinges and dull soreness

Since yesterday evening, I started feeling a dull kind of soreness around my lower back and hips. I’ve eased up my exercise routine quite a bit since the transfer. The clinic suggested I forgo any rigorous exercise up until the day of my beta-HCG test. Since that day, I’ve mostly stuck with brisk walking on “hills” on the treadmill, elliptical for cardio, light yoga (no twisting or anything that could cause me to fall, they said), plus arm and leg exercises. So I knew that any soreness was not due to working out.

I experienced twinges last Monday, the day of the transfer, and a little of it the day after. The soreness I am experiencing now is often thought to be one of many pregnancy symptoms. But I don’t even know whether I should trust my body and any symptoms I believe I may or may not be experiencing. It could all just be psychosomatic. Maybe if I want to “feel” pregnant, my body will just make up the symptoms and tell my head to believe them. I’m at a point now where I can no longer trust my body to do anything on its own in the realm of reproductivity and just have to go by the actual facts… which leads to the HCG test tomorrow.

Who would have ever thought that nine days could go by so freaking slowly. It’s truly the worst wait.

Not so peaceful dreams return

Maybe my streak of boring dreams is over. Over the weekend, I dreamt that my cousin texted me to let me know his dad, my uncle, passed away suddenly from a case of severe food poisoning. They said they had already had his funeral, and he took a picture of a copy of the eulogy he did. That was so weird, I thought, because as of this year, it’s already been 21 years since my uncle had passed away. Then, I had a dream a colleague of mine was giving me some nasty feedback about customer work I’ve done, while saying he hoped that feedback from customers about me would improve over time. Lastly, I had a dream I was in my wedding dress in my dad’s car. He was driving me to San Clemente, and as we approached Casa Romantica, our wedding venue, there were these huge, massive waterfalls. It was a very confusing experience.

Whenever dreams like this happen, I wonder if it’s just my underlying anxiety, or if there are some other deeper meanings to these dreams. I never have any idea.

Taking care

“I was telling my guys at work that it feels sooooo nice to have someone else cook for me,” my friend gushed while we took a walk outside this afternoon. “It’s nice to feel taken care of for once. It’s also nice to not have to think about what I have in the fridge or what I need to cook to get a meal on the table.”

She has been buying a lot of our raw ingredients for my cooking, and a couple days ago she brought back Persian cucumbers, so I asked if she was planning to use them for something. She said no, so I made a quick Sichuanese-style spicy garlicky cucumber salad — my go-to dish when I have a lot of cucumbers but I don’t really have any creativity to think about something new to do with them. We had them as a side for dinner this evening, and she totally obsessed over them. “What’s in the cucumber salad?” she asked. This is my first hint that she really likes something. Then, she said, “I’m ALL about this salad. I’m definitely having another serving.” She finished her plate, got another serving of the cucumber salad, and inhaled it all. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited about cucumber salad, ever.

I love the feeling of taking care of other people. That’s why I hope this transfer works out so I can have a little one to watch grow and nurture and feed endless delicious things. Hopefully, it will have a good appetite and love a variety of foods.

Saturday food crawls with a guest

Today, Chris planned yet another surprise food crawl for us, and this time it was to explore the area that is Spanish Harlem. And we had a surprise guest come with us, too: my friend who has been staying with us. She thought about spending the day preparing to move into her new place, but she realized she really wanted to take advantage of the weekend and “just have fun,” so she came with us. We went to a number of delicious spots, but for me, the biggest highlights were the Tres Leches Cafe and Lupita’s Restaurant. Tres Leches Cafe literally has just two items of various flavors on their menu: tres leches (or “three milk”) cakes or flan. And the flavors could not have been more mouth watering: cuatro leches (“four milk”), guava, passion fruit — HEAVEN! We had the guava since Chris was craving guava, and it was just lick your plate good — super milky, creamy, and indulgent. Chris noted how much I liked it because I went quiet while eating it. Some food needs no words. Lupita’s Restaurant nearby was also notable for both the dishes we shared: the birria tacos (beef) and also the sopa verde res (green beef soup). Ever since I had this incredible meat and vegetable soup in Puebla back in 2010, I realized how under-appreciated and unknown Mexican cuisine is for their soups. This soup was reminiscent of that richly flavored soup at that food stall back in Puebla — layered with flavors of many vegetables, meat, and with a nice kick that lingers.

This was definitely a good eating day. But it was also nice to have my friend come join us because I know that outings like this are not normal or even remotely typical for her, as her former partner would never be interested in a neighborhood exploration or a food crawl at all. We gave her a new experience today of a neighborhood she never goes to.

Durian ice cream find at 3 Aunties Market

It’s been said that you aren’t supposed to lift or carry anything too heavy while you are pregnant. So I tried my best to exercise some self control when walking around Woodside, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst today, picking up different Thai, Chinese, Colombian, and Indian ingredients and takeout while also not toppling over. It’s okay, though: I came prepared with my backpack in tow, and while I had an unplanned walk to Elmhurst since 3 Aunties Market in Woodside did not have makrut lime leaves (the main Chinese market in Elmhurst always has them), it actually helped me discover a new takeout dim sum spot called Rainbow Dim Sum that ended up being quite good. Not only did they have a fully digital menu, but many of the dim sum dishes, such as fresh rice noodle rolls stuffed with meat, are actually made to order. So I got a few dishes from here, stopped by Lamoon to revisit their delicious and fiery Northern Thai cooking, and also picked up some Thai groceries and ready-made food, including these delicious grilled pork skewers with sticky rice, pandan and coconut jelly cubes… and the biggest surprise of my visit to 3 Aunties — DURIAN ICE CREAM, HOUSE MADE! I couldn’t believe my eyes: they had coconut ice cream, which seems quite standard at most Asian markets, but DURIAN? UMMMM, GIMME! So I got a pint and went on my merry way.

Given it was house made, I knew it had to be promising. Plus, the first ingredient listed was durian, which made me realize that it would be packed with blended durian and likely durian chunks since when an ingredient is listed first, it’s usually because it has the most of that in the item. And the durian ice cream lived up to its hype: it was super creamy, very rich in durian flavor, and the chunks of durian were deeeeee-licious. And it was such a bargain at only $5.99 for a pint! I couldn’t have been happier today.

Excitement vs. fear?

I was chatting with my therapist this morning about the transfer earlier this week. She asked me how I was feeling, and I immediately just started crying. I told her I just felt worried… and powerless. There’s nothing, once again, I can do at this point to make anything happen. I also felt a little excited, but all that excitement could easily just die upon getting a negative HCG test next Wednesday, or even worse, getting my period. I hate waiting, I said to her. I’ve done SO MUCH WAITING this entire time. IVF should really be called I FUCKING HATE WAITING VF. So I wasn’t sure how to feel or even how to express myself.

She suggested that I don’t really give myself time to feel, which is likely why I had such an explosion of emotion when being asked by her how I felt. “It’s okay to sit on your emotions, whether they are good or bad or a mix of two opposing feelings,” she said. She said I have a tendency to bury myself in doing things or being efficient to avoid having to feel. That observation is likely true. I mean, I have consciously noted that I pride myself on productivity and “getting shit done,” so those two things kind of go hand in hand.

So then the next question is: how do I let myself feel?

The most conflict-driven dream I’ve had in the last 3.5 months

Since I became more regular about daily meditation since end of December, my dreams, in Chris’s words, have become “boring.” Nothing exciting or even remotely annoying seems to happen in them. They are a far cry from the dreams I used to have, where I was usually yelling at or beating someone who was frustrating me.

However, a couple days ago, I had the most conflict-driven dream I’ve had since mid-December. I was at the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California, getting bored and wanting to go home. I had arrived by a charter bus that had set times it would take me back to San Francisco, and I realized that the next bus going back was just in 15 minutes, so I picked up my bag and started walking over to the bus. However, on my way there, I passed by a bakery store front with a familiar name: Bushwick Hot Bread. It’s actually the name of an Aussie-run home-delivery baked goods side gig that an Australian chef at Eleven Madison Park started during the pandemic when she could no longer work in the restaurant. Chris found out about her and started ordering her baked goods, ranging from lamingtons to sausage rolls, late last year, and we have both been loving her stuff. In addition to that, we also interact with her regularly on Instagram, and we follow each other.

Anyway, so I knew I had to run in to buy some baked goodies. I ran in to pick up a few things, and instead of ringing me up, the Aussie workers there just wanted to chat me up. I insisted I had to leave because I had a bus to catch, but they totally ignored what I said, instead carrying on conversation as though I had not expressed any urgency in leaving. I was left debating whether I should wait to get my items totaled up or just leave without the baked goods…. but I REALLY wanted the baked goods….

Well, that’s my subconscious “conflict” now – to have or not to have Aussie treats.

Appreciation and affection

If there is one thing that my friend who is staying with us is, she’s extremely affectionate. She never hesitates to express her appreciation for you as a friend or a person in her life. She’s eager to hug, kiss, pick you up, nuzzle you, do anything to show she adores you. It’s one of the biggest reasons I love and appreciate her so much. She always expresses how thankful she is for the tiniest things you do for her, even if you just gave her a sticker that reminded you of her that you got for free at work. She’s the last person in the world I know who would take anyone for granted.

I’ve been cooking for all of us since she’s been staying with us for the last week, and while I don’t think I’ve made anything particularly out of the ordinary or laborious for me, she’s clearly been loving all of it. Every time I cook, she expresses how tasty things are and lets me know what she especially likes or finds addictive. She obsessed over the simple pea shoot stir fry I made. Even the crispy scallions that I made for the mushroom scallion oil noodles was something she marveled and went nuts over. It always feels nice to see how much people relish my cooking. I’m actually going to miss cooking for her and seeing her reactions once she eventually finds her own place. I really don’t mind her staying with us. If anything, I really enjoy the extra company and socializing. It’s been over a year of being locked down in this apartment, so it’s nice to have someone else around regularly here.

Transfer day: at long last.

Well, today was the big day. I had my frozen embryo transfer around midday. I kept checking my phone this morning to make sure the clinic didn’t call me… because if they did, it would have been bad news. Two percent of embryos do not survive the thaw. Luckily, mine was okay.

When I checked in upon arrival at the clinic, the front desk assistant (my favorite) was there. She asked me what music I wanted played during the procedure. I thought I misheard her. “Did you just ask me what music I want played?” I asked her, confused. She smiled and confirmed I heard right. I told her I wanted Lady Gaga playing, so she went to set that up for me. That’s a nice touch.

While waiting to be called in, my favorite sonographer came out to greet and hug me. “Yvonne! GOOD LUCK TODAY! I’m rooting for you!” she said, embracing me. “I’m praying for you. You will do great.” I got a little teary eyed when she said this. I didn’t realize how much pent up emotion I had in myself until she said this to me. There are some really good humans who work at this clinic. She is one of them.

They make you come in with a semi-full bladder for this procedure, which happens in the operating room. The semi-full bladder helps them better visualize where to best place the embryo along the uterine lining. And of course, the doctor was running late with another patient. I was not super thrilled, lying on the table with my feet up in stir-ups. They even made me change into an operating room gown, booties, and a hair net given it’s a sterile environment. The room has a tiny window with a curtain that opens up into the embryology lab, where they hand over the embryo in a vial to the doctor to insert.

When the doctor finally arrived after the nurse buzzed him multiple times, I was pretty much ready to pee all over him (remember how I said above that there are some really good humans who work at this clinic? This doctor may or may not be on that list). Luckily for him and me, I have some level of self respect and did not pee on him, as I was able to hold it all in despite his being 25 minutes late. However, if I had peed on him, he definitely would have deserved it. During the procedure, they show you the embryo on the screen before they insert it. They even give you a picture of the embryo as a little souvenir of the event.

Once the transfer was complete, I rested for about five minutes on the table before getting dressed, checking out, and leaving. I also said a little prayer to myself, hoping this would be the very last time I’d leave the operating room here.

I went home, finished the work day, made and ate dinner, and rested and read in the evening. They told me to do nothing strenuous, no exercise other than walking, and no heavy lifting for today. I felt some little twinges and what felt like tightness or pressure down there throughout the day. I hope that’s a good sign of implantation. I can only hope now for the best.

In nine days, I return to the clinic for my b-HCG, progesterone, and TSH tests. The b-HCG is the test that detects the pregnancy hormone in your blood. Pleeeeease be positive.